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The Shelter Experience

LEARN BY DOING. The Shelter Construction Program is a unique experiential learning opportunity for students to design, build, and live in a structure they have created.

The Thesis Program at SoAT is integrated with Taliesin’s historic Student Shelter Program. While they are at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, Arizona throughout the fall and spring months, the vast majority of the School’s students live in student-built shelters scattered in the Sonoran Desert around the campus. These small structures, designed and built by students in response to the landscape and desert climate, have been a hallmark of the program since its inception in the 1930s. As the focus of the student Thesis Program, students will formulate the entirety of their shelter project themselves, from site selection through space and use programming through to design, construction and inhabitation. The shelter project functions as a proof-of-concept for a thesis designed to be scalable and adaptable to how we live in our modern world, as the set of ideas that students develop in their thesis, first embodied and tested through the creation –or, more often, recreation of disused existing shelters— of these environmentally astute dwellings, might also form the foundation of a critical practice that students develop throughout their careers. The ability to initiate and execute a small comprehensive project while still at the School provides students a rare and rigorous platform to investigate architectural ideas in a holistic manner, solidly grounded in historical and cultural fact, circumstance, and context as informed by careful and penetrating research.

  • Skybox | Chelsea Clark | 2012

    Skybox began as a post-and-beam structure. The most recent version was renovated and redesigned by Chelsea Clark in 2012.

  • Sunken Wrap | Pablo Moncayo | 2015

    Subterranea – Sunken Wrap explores an inhabitant’s relationship to the sky and the constantly changing light suffusing its sunken sleeping chamber. This design was inspired by the desire to re-use and up-cycle existing available materials, thereby significantly lowering the cost of construction, and includes an above-grade communal gathering area.

  • Rammed Earth | Conor Denison | 2019

  • Shelter In- Progress | Taylor Bode | 2019